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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is the story of my tracked vehicle project. I have not found really many "tracked vehicle" specific forums. Since this project will follow my attempt to put tracks on a Suzuki Sidekick, I am positing it here. I know there are others who have done snow tracks and posted it on this site. Don, aka "Roadtech", has quite a bit on here. I have reading to do.

I am posting the entire story with all background. Please excuse the length and detail, I hope it can help others do the same later if they are interested in something similar.

I have been an active member of other forums such as Jeeps, Expo (Expedition), and Argo's.

Here it goes....

Purpose: Cabin Access near Fairplay, Colorado
- 11,000ft Elevation at tree line, close to the summit of Mt Sherman (14,000ft).
- Very cold, very windy.
- Heavy snowfall, deep drifts
- un-maintained road & driveway, very steep grade.
- county maintains roads up to about 1/4 mile from the cabin. From there we are on our own. I know this is not far to snowshoe, but these are the factors:
o we use cabin primarily on weekends. We arrive late Friday night after work in Denver.
o we share the cabin, so we have to haul in food etc each time
o we have two boys, 5yrs and 3yrs. They are usually asleep. It can be -20F, windy with sideways blowing snow, and dark when we arrive.
o if we leave a vehicle at the actual cabin, we have to snowshoe up there to get it when we arrive.
o I have a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited 2009 with 6" lift, 37" tires, and lockers. Its useless on the road after the snow starts drifting. Can't make it 20 feet.

County will not add our road to the plow routes, we have all tried. Plowing is not possible with a regular truck. Too steep, too deep. We hired a guy 1st season who had to use a massive loader with chains and plow blade (took over and hour per plow)


It cost $2k first winter. 2nd winter he said road "did damage" to his machine and it took longer than expected, so he needed to charge $4,000. Umm... no. So I bought an Argo with tracks. See below.

Here is our cabin and why we love it:



view from cabin:


Sunrise



Here is an early season example of the drifts forming in the driveway:


Here is a guy up the road that used to try to plow. Suburban with chevy big block and 37" tires. Got stuck and was buried the entire winter. Here his vehicle is emerging from under the snow in the spring:


There are a couple houses further up the road than us. They have real snowcats. Here is theirs:


I have searched for these. Usually they are ancient, and still 10's of thousands of dollars.

My Main Concerns for whatever snow vehicle solution we end up with:
- Total Cost
- Flotation and traction. Not getting stuck in drifts.
- Reliable. In event of breakdown, able to service/maintain vehicle. Not have to fix myself or do it in the field.
- Quick and easy to transfer from our car into vechicle, and get up to cabin in decent comfort.
- Able to park snowcat on road be able to just jump in when arriving at cabin.
- No hauling back and forth from home on each visit

Story to be continued...waiting for moderator approval to post replies/continuation....
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Attempt #1: Mini Snowcat called "Frankencat"
Originally, due to budget, I bought this to try. For $300 why not.





- built by aerospace engineer. very ingenious and unique vehicle
- 2 snowmobile channels/tracks
- 20HP garden tractor engine and transaxle
- Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbwMyNhzBc4

Pro's
- cheap. $300 on craigslist
- light and handled deep snow well

Con's
- finicky small engine.
- carbureted. Major loss of power at elevation
- chain driven. chains stretch and pop etc.
- hard to start. took 10 minutes of trying with starting fluid each time.
- you have to trailer it back and forth
- you freeze your butt off driving it
- no cargo capacity
- can't fit 4 people
- really tricky to drive since homemade
- easy to tip backward. possible to flip forwards as well.


Attempt #2: Argo8x8 with Supertracks



Features
- powder extensions and ice cleats
- 20HP kawasaki liquid cooled v-twin engine

Pro's
- Lowest ground pressure
- good torque
- great for hunting. but I am not a hunter.
- amphibious. but I don't have any need to take it in water.

Con's
- not street legal so I can't park on side of road. also don't want it to get stolen.
- needs hardtop enclosure. too cold and windy when arriving at 10pm in the dark on a friday night to use the cabin
- reliability. small engines are not my favorite.
- VERY wide (82") with tracks so does not fit on most trailers
- heater basically does nothing.
- you smell like gas and exhaust after using it
- loading on and off trailers is a pain. You can to strap it down for transport. Often your ratchets are covered in ice and hard to get off when arriving.
- Its near the max my jeep can haul and not fun driving in winter conditions with it on a trailer. Towing is slow, unsafe, uses tons of gas.
- I have a snowmobile trailer I haul it with. I could add an enclosure on top of it and use it like a garage and leave it up there. I have permission from a neighbor at the bottom of our road to store it. But it would be so heavy I could barely haul it with my jeep. Probably would have to borrow a pickup truck. If I have any breakdowns that require brining it home, I need to borrow a truck. Also, probably would have to hire an excavator to unburry the trailer so I could pull it back onto the road if it was mid-winter.

Attempt #3: Tracked 4x4 Vehicle
Recently I started thinking about a tracked 4x4 vehicle. But tracks are very expensive new. Mattracks cost $10-40k. Even the less expensive brands cost $9000 or more.

Some people home build tracks, but it seems to take them a lot of trial an error to come out with something reliable that works well. I don't have the time for that right now. There are not many full size used tracks out there. But, there are many more ATV tracks..... and they are 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of full size tracks. Then I noticed people putting ATV tracks on Samurai's! So I started researching. And thus, the start to this project. If I can get this to turn out well, I will switch to this platform and sell my Argo. If not, I'll sell the tracks and the 4x4 vehicle, and keep my Argo. I figure its worth a shot. It will take some time, but its not as daunting as building tracks from scratch.

Benefits of a Tracked 4x4 Vehicle (compared to Argo):
- people who are not familiar with Argo's are intimidated to drive it. Argo's steer like a tank, have throttle like a motorcyle. Braking is through the handle bars also. You need to know how to use it, start it etc. Not like a car where you hop in and go. Everyone knows how to drive a car
- Heat and regular seats to sit in. An enclosed cab.
- lock it and leave it on side of road so when we get there, jump in and go up to cabin. No hauling back and forth to my house. No garage or enclosed trailer needed.
- MAINTENANCE. I can't even find a place that specializes in Argos near Denver. Just put the wheels back on the vehicle and drive it to town for service. Its a car. Any service shop anywhere can work on a car.
- Towable. I can put a towbar on the front of a car, put the wheels on, and tow it between my house and cabin or for service. No trailer needed.

Vehicles Considered: Light 4x4 or AWD Vehicles
- Rav4 1st Gen 2-Door
- Jeep YJ, TJ
- Jeep XJ
- Jeep Liberty
- 2016 Jeep Renegade
- Isuzu Vehicross
- Subaru Justy
- Isuzu Amigo
- Suzuki Samurai
- Suzuki Sidekick
- Geo Tracker
- Chevy Tracker

Vehicle Considerations
- Carburetors could be a problem at this altitude. It causes major power loss issues if you are not jetted properly for 11,000ft. I had to rejet the Argo. I am throwing out any carbureted vehicle and considering only Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI). That means only 1991-1994 Samurai's from what I gather.
- solid axles and articulation would be nice, but are not as important as in regular 4-wheeling I think. Independent Front Suspension (IFS) might be ok.
- having 4 doors would be great, buts not a deal breaker. We can live with 2 and put 2 people in the back

Track Options
- ATV Tracks (smallest, lightest, cheapest)
- UTV Tracks (medium size, weight, cost)
- Full Size. I was considering American Track Truck Dominator or Dominator XT


Advice from snow track manufacturer:
- Lighter is better to help float over deep powder and drifts
- AWD is not as predictable, and capable overall as 4x4.
- lockers are important to not get stuck

Advantages of Full Size Vehicle Tracks (Like American Track Truck)
- direct bolt on to many vehicles
- bolt patterns match vehicles so no adapters required
- can even have dual bolt patterns drilled so you can put on two different vehicles you own. Or a friends.
- anti-rotation etc is meant to work with vehicles
- can handle more weight. Hopefully will not wear out quick due to too much weight on bogey wheels etc like in ATV tracks
- can have ice studs molded into tracks for traction
- larger footprint, allow for more flotation
- taller, so its like putting on a tall lift. Allows more powder and drifts to pass under vehicle compared to ATV tracks
- Allows use of heavier more capable vehicles such as jeeps.

Con's of Full Size Tracks
- Heavy
- Expensive
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Here are my comparisons:






What I decided to do....

1990 Suzuki Sidekick
- $1000 on craigslist
- salvage title
- Stock unmodified
- 4x4
- EFI
- softop



2014 Camoplast UTV Tracks
- Craigslist for $2800.
- Used 3 times on snow. Look BRAND NEW.
- (MSRP $4900)
- Guy had them on a Polaris XP 900 (RZR)



This seems to be the best combination of variables.
- light vehicle. Well under weight capacity rating of UTV tracks.
- 4x4 with ability to put in lockers. Front locking hubs.
- cheap body and spacer lifts available to help clear tracks
- EFI
- sidekicks are much less expensive that samurai's but weigh the same
- UTV tracks are heavier duty and provide more flotation that ATV tracks but are still WAY less expensive that full size tracks
- proven online this *can* work. I have seen at least 15-20 examples of this on youtube and forums.
- Combo of UTV tracks plus Sidekick equals same ground pressure (flotation) as a Jeep XJ or TJ with full size tracks.
- Cheapest overall combination. Half the cost of samurai setup, one third the cost of full size tracks. Less than the cost of my Argo!

Some issues to solve for ATV/UTV tracks on a Sidekick:
- lift vehicle enough for track clearance
- differential lockers to get enough traction for powder and drifts
- find hub adapters for ATV to automobile bolt pattern
- hubs might be too big to fit in holes in wheel adapters?
- fabricate brackets for anti-rotation safety devices on tracks
- how to keep in alignment or keep tracks parallel up front

Issues to fix on the Sidekick
- No hardtop for cold weather and snow. Hard to find used. New too expensive. Fabricate one instead.
- fix rear tailgate so it opens (mine was damaged in accident)
- steering. manual steering. not sure if will be an issue turning heavy tracks, especially with lockers.

Things to Add to Sidekick
- fuel cans (since I don't plan to drive 12 miles to town on tracks to refuel)
- hitch
- cargo solution (sled, hitch basket, roof rack?)
- LED lights (headlights on sidekick don't work) LED offroad lights all around, including under vehicle to be able to see what's going on with tracks or in deep snow. Rear for backing up.
- towbar $52 free ship
- 5000 lbs Adjustable Tow Bar Towbar Auto Truck Hauling Towing Chain Trucks New HD | eBay
- windshield cover to keep ice/snow off so we don't have to scrape and defrost each time we arrive?
- cold weather battery starting. no power for a block heater. do a solar powered, battery heater, with timer. Heat all week, charge on friday from 5-7pm for our arrival?


Reduce Weight to help flotation:
- remove spare tire
- remove carpet
- remove rear seat and fabricate simple jump seats so you can get in from tailgate
- muffler/exhaust?
- bumpers?
- other?

Next steps:
- research on adapters, anti-rotation mounting brackets, etc.
- order adapters
- install tracks. fabricate brackets, etc
- determine lift needed and install lift
- install tow bar, head up to cabin to test.
- see if lockers are needed or not. Install if needed.
- once it performing well in the snow do the rest: hardtop, cargo, hitch,
 

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Discussion Starter #5
More Photos







Don C on this forum




 

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Wow! They could do a reality show on your trips up and down the mountain. "Life at 14,000 feet". Welcome to the forum. I hope someone can answer some of your questions, I sure can't.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Wow! They could do a reality show on your trips up and down the mountain. "Life at 14,000 feet". Welcome to the forum. I hope someone can answer some of your questions, I sure can't.
Thanks! no questions so far really. Just working through this process and posting it for others in case its useful. I am sure I'll have plenty of questions once I start working on the sidekick though, that is new territory for me and I am definitely not a "mechanic" by any stretch of the imagination. I just learn as I go. Thanks for the welcome.
 

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If I were to be looking to set up a "Tracked TracKick" for winter snow use, I would be looking for a TIN TOP rig to start with. Much easier to keep warm inside than a soft top. In the years before 4 doors, both Geo and Suzuki sold two door tin tops. ('89 and 90 for Suzuki and '89 to '95 for Geo).

Depending on your use, a 4 door would work well and should be easier to find. If only getting to and from the cabin the longer wheel base and slightly more weight shouldn't be a problem. The extra room inside could be a plus.
 

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Bleubruin, you`ve made a good research , funny to look at those.....

Mike.... are you now with 8 Track/kick ??!!
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I agree hardtop would be better. but I could not find one in the price range I wanted. I didn't want to spend 2-3K on the vehicle, since I am not sure how well all this will work out or even work for my purposes.

I will take this one step at a time, trying not to invest too much into things I can't get my money back out of it if it does not work.

I can buy or build a hardtop at a later date if the tracks work well.

Thought about 4 doors as well, but they are heavier. At least 400 lbs more, and up to 800 more on some later models. I don't want to stress the tracks more than I have to.

I did some reading, some have experienced premature wear and failures. Not only from people in Zuk's but on ATV, UTV's. I want these to last so I am trying to stay light weight.

Just got home with the new sidekick. it drove pretty well. issues so far are:

- electrical short/fire near fusebox under steering column. Can see some burnt wiring and melted fuse block etc. Hence one headlight, taillights, and dash lights don't work
- driver's side window does not crank up or down
- brakes need work. feel like they are "throbbing" when you hold the pedal down.
 

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Bluebruin, if ever you`re coming in my area, I`ll give you my new(used) white hardtop for free. I already have two black ones, so I would be happy to give it to a trackkick owner who would need it.....
 

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Discussion Starter #12
wow! thanks that is such a nice offer. I would take you up on that for sure! Too bad montreal is so far. I do get up to Wisconsin sometimes, but that's still really far. I wonder how much shipping would cost?
 

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just the other side of Michigan lake.... I could check for the shipping cost at the beginning of the week. I pick up my spare parts Sidekick this thursday. This hardtop is white top is white(both parts).

I`ve got no idea at all if it Worth it for you but the shipping cost will tell it all.

I think you sent me a pm but I can`t read it. try it again.....

John
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I think it would be worth the shipping cost. That is so nice of you. I really appreciate it. yes, PM sent. This is the kind of stuff that is so cool about forums. People helping eachother out. I have a friend in wisconsin I could ship it too as well if that made it less expensive. we'll see. thanks!!
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
There is a cheap 1995 JX 4-door (5-door) 4x4 manual for sale near me.

Does anybody have RELIABLE data on curb weight of various models? I have looked around (KBB, edmunds, zukworld etc) and everyone list drastically different curb weights of differnt years and models/trims.

I have a 1990 JX (convertible, 4x4, 3 door manual). I am considering a 1994 4-door/5-door and want to know how much heavier it is. Some sites say as little as 300lbs difference, others it looks like nearly 800lbs. I have seen the 2 door JX around 2150 to 2300lbs or so, and the 4 door 2500 to 2900 depending on website?

If its only 300lbs extra, I would be adding a 150lb hardtop anyway so its practically the same. But, I have a hard time believing you can stretch a car that much, add two doors, hardtop, and a larger engine and have it only add up to 300 extra lbs.

2900lbs is too heavy and I don't want to put that stress on my tracks. If its really only 2500, it might be worth the risk for the extra passenger comfort and cargo room.

Edit, just read this on zukiworld:

Q: How much does the 4door weigh? Give or take?
A: A little over 2700 per owners manual (curb weight)

Reply: surprising enough the 4 door only weighs in at
200 to 250 pounds over the 2 door, 2700 Lbs

Reply: I took a stock 94 4 door over a hwy weight scale and it was right at 3700 with nobody in it.
Reply: When I drove trucks, my brother came to where I worked and put his 95 4
door on the 60' scale and got like 2680 lbs. my 2 door weighs in at 2500 almost
exactly with 5 Swampers on Rockcrawler wheels so I'm not sure where the
difference in the weight is from yours to our trucks, but 1000 lbs is a big difference
and I'm wondering if you were thinking 3700 and it's 2700 instead.

Reply: I came in at 3080lbs at the recycling company down the road from me. I wanted to know for winch purposes you know the rule 1.5 times your vehicle weight


What the heck? I don't understand why its so hard to nail down something that should be a simple factory spec.
I can't exactly take these people's car to a scale and weigh it before I buy it.....
guess I will stick with the 2 door unless I can prove conclusively a 4 door is under 2700lbs. After that I think its too heavy to make it worth it.
 

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I do know they added some to the body structure with each year. (and I have pictures!) So this should be SOME of the difference. I am fairly sure the slow weight gain over the years stopped about with the '96 model year, with added structure inside the doors and other "air bag" stuff. Another thing, that adds confusion is the Sport model. It IS a LOT heaver than the "normal" 4 door TracKick of the same year. I believe a Sport model is just over 3000lbs. (I'd guess 3200lbs.)

Judging by how they pull behind the motorhome, I think the 300lbs is an accurate difference between a 4 door and the same year two door. I also think a 2 door tin top would be lighter than a 2 door with a fiberglass hard top.... of the same year.

There is a state operated scale not far from me (just not in a direction I travel very often), that they leave on all the time. I COULD drive out that way and get a weight. (For work reasons, I need to be awake tonight anyway... ;-) )

As I dropped the insurance from the soft top, (the only two door that was really drivable) I can only weigh a 1994 4 door automatic and later the 1996 Sport.

This is my "parts" 1994 two door soft top. Note the length of the body support over the front tire.


Now compare with the same support on a 1989 Tin Top.


edit: the 4 door also has larger brakes all the way around over the 2 door. (The Sport has even larger!) I do not know the weight difference this makes.
 

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... There is a state operated scale not far from me (just not in a direction I travel very often), that they leave on all the time. I COULD drive out that way and get a weight. (For work reasons, I need to be awake tonight anyway... ;-) ) ...
DONE. 3100lbs with me in it

Say 2900lbs for the Kick as driven.

That would be: 1994 JLX 4 door, 4x4, auto, full stock interior, A/C, power windows, cruise, full tank, the non-removable parts of the tow base-plate, 16inch steel wheels (Sport rims) and a full spare on the back. .. MAYBE 100lbs over a stock JX of the same year.

A 1991 or '92 would be lighter. How much lighter, I haven't a clue. Most likely not much. But I can see 2700lbs for the very first 4 door models in 1991. (Base model w/no extra equipment.)
 

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Neat info, lots of research done.

I would definately recommend the 4 door over a 2 door.

if you take out the AC system, that would be about 60 lbs right there. Maybe a tad bit more.

I think an auto trans is heavier than the 5 speed as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #19 (Edited)
I don't think there is enough to remove on the 4 door to get the weight down far enough. I think 2900lbs is too heavy (with cargo and passengers, I'd be at the max weight for my tracks). maybe it it was 2500 and I could take out the AC etc it would be worth it.

I already have a 2 door, so I am going to try that. first i have to take it down to my mechanic to make sure its sound enough to invest my time and money trying to convert. I guess if its not, I'll consider a 4 door. Thanks for checking that weight! I appreciate it.
 

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I am not sure how well these perform in deep snow particularly going up hill. You may need to make several runs to get through and that will place a lot of stress on small axles. I had some experience with the tracks on a full size truck in sand and they worked well until the bottom was too soft. Good luck.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-PyxDfDFlc

video of tin top breaking trail and having some issues..
 
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